Cheers: Marston’s chief hails 'encouraging' festive bookings as pub chain returns to profit

The boss of Marston’s, the pub and hotel chain with about 20 sites in Scotland, has hailed “encouraging” Christmas bookings despite cost-of-living pressures on customers, and has said the group has also been buoyed by the World Cup.

The firm, which runs 1,468 pubs across the UK, also returned to profit for the past year following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. Chief executive Andrew Andrea said: “Current trading to the end of November has been positive with encouraging levels of Christmas bookings as we look forward to the first restriction-free festive period in three years. Additionally, the World Cup has benefited trading, delivering like-for-like drink sales of around 50 per cent growth for the home team games.”

The group highlighted that overall like-for-like sales across its managed and franchised pubs have been up 6.8 per cent since the start of October, compared with pre-pandemic levels from 2019. It said this momentum is building towards Christmas, with bookings for the festive period also above 2019’s levels.

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The update came as the Wolverhampton-headquartered company revealed a £163.4 million pre-tax profit for the year to October 1, compared with a £171.1m loss in the previous year. The firm was buoyed by higher sales and efforts to offset rocketing cost inflation.

Andrea added: “I am pleased to report a strong performance over the last 12 months evidenced by a doubling of revenue growth, a return to profit and steady progress with our debt reduction strategy. Whilst uncertainty remains, Marston’s remains well financed and in great shape to weather the challenges ahead with the right formula, the right strategy and the right team to continue to make progress and deliver shareholder value.”

Victoria Scholar, head of investment at Interactive Investor, noted: “Marston’s has swung to a full-year profit following the challenges of the pandemic thanks to the return to pub life, particularly over the warm summer months. However, it looks like 2023 could be challenging with pressures from a slowing UK economy and squeezed household budgets leaving consumers with less discretionary income to spend on drinks and food at the pub.”

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould said: “Shareholders have a return to profit to toast at Marston’s but the pub chain still faces several challenges as it looks to end 2022 on a high note. Not least the potential impact of further rail strikes which could lead to cancellations for Christmas parties and people socialising at home rather than struggling with a transport conundrum. Marston’s may enjoy some benefit from people feeling too strapped to dine in a fancy restaurant but still keen to go out for a meal with friends and opting for some pub grub instead.

“Like the whole industry, Marston’s will be one of the most fervent supporters of the Three Lions, having already benefited thanks to the team’s progress so far in Qatar. If England can progress beyond a tricky opponent in France on Saturday, Marston’s could look forward to even more people choosing to watch the remaining matches in the pub,” he added.



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